Chesterton Tribune



USW USS to extend contract, but strike votes to be held

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United Steelworkers (USW) locals representing the hourly workforce at U.S. Steel Corporation (USS) will hold strike authorization votes this week, despite what USS is calling an “ongoing extension of the collective bargaining agreement” which was set to expire at 11:59 p.m. Saturday.

USS announced that the company and the union have agreed to an extension--the duration of which was not specified--in a terse statement issued at 7:39 p.m. Saturday.

USS said that the contract extension “is in the best interest of our employees, customers, stockholders, and other stakeholders.”

“All U.S. Steel facilities continue to operate in a safe and orderly manner,” USS said.

This morning, however, at 9:20 a.m., USW confirmed that strike authorization votes “at all local unions begin today and continue through Friday.”

“Let’s show USS we will stand up and fight back for fair contract!” the USW added.

USW Local 6103 said that strike authorization votes will be held at 8 a.m., 4 p.m., and 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 6, at Woodland Park in Portage.

While strike authorization votes are being scheduled and held, the USW said, “we will continue to stay at work and will provide management with 48-hour notice in advance of any strike in order to safely cease operations. We will also continue to try to bring the company to its senses, but that authorization is necessary to bring them into the real world. The local leadership will then return to Pittsburgh to try to finalize a deal before we take any strike action. Hopefully the company brings forward a proposal worth your consideration for ratification. Their current one is not.”

Meanwhile, just before deadline on Friday, the USW announced that it had agreed to a “brief extension” of its own three-year contract with ArcelorMittal. Again, the duration of that extension was not specified.

‘Flim-Flam Artists’

At 10:49 a.m. Saturday, with only 13 hours remaining before the current contract was due to expire, the USW released a lengthy communiquŽ blasting USS for what it called the company’s “financial sleight of hand.”

“The union and the company are still far from a fair agreement,” the USW said. “U.S. Steel continues to demand a six-year contract with deep concessions throughout. It has offered bonus and wage increases the first three years, designed to appear meaningful, but the bulk of their ‘bonus’ is the profit-sharing we will have already earned. There is nothing but financial sleight of hand in the way they now do business. Much like their Carnegie Way savings they brag about so much. This is followed by very small increases in the final three years and the promise of more bonus money if they do well using formulas they continue to change to suit their needs.”

The USW also slammed cuts which USS is seeking in the current active healthcare program, which the union said would double the amount members would pay in deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums. Under the same proposal, members would pay up to $237 in monthly premiums for family coverage, which would increase by 10 percent per year over the lifetime of the contract, the USW said. “After subtracting these premiums and additional out-of-pocket expenses, the proposed wage increase is actually an average of only 0.2 percent per year for a family. It’s even worse for retirees and those who expect to retire in the coming years.”

In addition, the USW said, USS is seeking a series of other concessions, including the following:

* Enabling language which would allow the company to modify all incentive plans.

* Eliminating the $250 minimum Supplemental Unemployment Benefits (SUB) benefit and cut the duration of SUB benefits.

* Eliminating SUB benefits and layoff protection for employees of up to five years of service.

* Eliminating weekly Sickness & Accident (S&A) benefits for employees with less than five years of service.

* Reducing S&A benefits by 50 percent for employees with five to 10 years of service.

* Changing health insurance carriers without negotiations or union agreement.

* Reducing health insurance continuation during layoff up to 50 percent for new hires.

* Benefit cuts and premium increases in retiree healthcare benefits.

* Increasing healthcare premiums for future retirees.

* Random drug tests for all employees.

* Eliminating the 40-hour guarantee and schedule 32-hour weeks “as they see fit.”

* Eliminating quick return overtime and OT over eight hours in a day.

“The list goes on and on,” the USW said. “This is a staggering proposal from financial flim-flam artists who have spent the last three years taking care of themselves and fattening their pocketbooks at the expense of everyone: their workforce, customers, and even shareholders. They have developed a line of BS about how much they care and their ‘passion’ for USS. They care only for themselves and their behavior is evidence of that.”

“The union didn’t come looking for this fight and we wish the company’s executives would cut out all their ego-driven nonsense and, like the workforce, just do their jobs, making and delivering high-quality steels to the market and our customer base,” the USW added. “We are prepared to continue to try to reach an honest and fair settlement and will continue to strive toward that end with management. Hopefully a strike will not be necessary but the company continues to ignore the workforce’s needs and to commit illegal practices on a daily basis during the bargaining.”




Posted 9/4/2018




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